Rachel B. Noel was the first African American woman elected to public office in Colorado, when elected as the first African American to the Denver Public Schools’ (DPS) Board of Education and she was the first African American woman elected statewide in Colorado when she was elected as the first African American to be a member and chair of the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents. A champion of the civil rights movement in Denver and in Colorado, she leaves behind a distinguished legacy in her effort to integrate Denver’s public schools with the Noel Resolution which passed in 1970.
On April 25, 1968, she presented the DPS board with the Noel Resolution, recognizing that the “establishment of an integrated school population is desirable to achieve equality of educational opportunity.” It directed the superintendent to develop “a comprehensive plan for the integration of the Denver Public Schools.” Under a cloud of threats to Noel and her family, the resolution passed in 1970. The U.S. Supreme Court would eventually affirm Noel’s position in its landmark decision of 1973, Keyes v. Denver School District No. 1, making Denver the first city outside the American South to be ordered by the country’s highest court to address de facto segregation with school busing.
Noel also played a critical role in MSU Denver’s history. She came to MSU Denver as a teacher of sociology and African American Studies in 1969 and served as chair of the African American Studies Department from 1971 to 1980.
Noel died at the age of 90 in 2008. A recipient of many awards and distinctions, Noel also lived to see a Denver Public Schools middle school named in her honor. Although that middle school was closed, the building and campus that house charter programs are still called the Rachel B. Noel Campus. The Noel Community Arts School, housed in the former Montbello High School building, consists of both a high school and a middle school.
Noel was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Denver in 1993 and the University of Colorado in 2004 and an honorary degree from MSU Denver in 1981. She also held a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University and a master’s degree from Fisk University. Noel’s other commendations and accomplishments were many, including Rocky Mountain News Top 100 Citizens of the Century in 2000 and Denver Mayor’s Millennium Award in 2001.
During her lifetime and after, Noel’s legacy has inspired the MSU Denver community and beyond. In 1981, the University created The Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship to honor Noel.
This year, Metropolitan State University of Denver, MSU Denver selected Denver native and veteran urban planner, real estate developer, university professor, author and filmmaker, Dr. Phil Hart as the 2018 Rachel B. Noel distinguished visiting professor.
The free event is open to the public and will be held on Sunday, March 11 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at Shorter Community AME Church, 3100 Richard Allen Court, in Denver. Dr. Hart will deliver a community keynote speech addressing a Black urban planner’s perspective on gentrification, economic development and social injustices and their effect on African Americans from 1918 to 2018, the years from Noel’s birth to now.
Following his address, a panel led by Dr. Nita Mosby Tyler, Reverend Quincy Shannon and Auontai (Tay)Anderson will respond. On Monday, March 12 and Tuesday, March 13, Dr. Hart will join with students at MSU Denver including students from Denver Public Schools’ Noel Community Arts with topics on sociology, urban planning/land use and aviation and film-making.
The Rachel B. Noel professorship develops multiculturalism, diversity and academic excellence at MSU Denver and continues to reflect historic achievements and inspire future generations of leaders. It brings renowned scholars and artists of distinction to the university to conduct classes, seminars, performances and lectures for students, faculty and the larger Denver community.
Editor’s note: For more information, visit the Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship webpage at www.msudenver.edu/noel.
About the Panelists
Dr. Nita Mosby Tyler is the chief catalyst and founder of The Equity Project, LLC. She is the former senior vice president and chief inclusion officer for Children’s Hospital Colorado and former executive director of the Office of Human Resources for the City and County of Denver. She is a consultant accredited by the Georgetown University National Center for Cultural Competence and a graduate of the Harvard University and Massachusetts General Disparities Leadership Program and recognized for her equity work with corporations, non-profit, community and government organizations. She holds a doctorate in the field of organizational leadership, a Master of Arts degree in management and a Bachelor of Science degree in education. Tyler is the First Lady of Shorter Community AME Church, and a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and the Links.
Denver native Reverend Quincy “Q” Shannon became a licensed preacher in 2003 and was ordained as a National Baptist minister in 2010. He currently serves at New Hope as the Youth and Young Adult Pastor. As a 3rd generation of his family, he attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. Shannon graduated with a BS in Broadcast Communication and received his Master’sin Divinity from the Samuel D. Procter School of Theology at Virginia Union University. In 2009 he started his consulting company Quintessential Remedy where he does motivational speaking. He is on the admin leadership team at Denver School of Science and Technology Green Valley Ranch. His community involvement includes the Denver Urban League Young Professionals, Denver Freedom Riders, Omega Leadership Academy Youth Mentoring Program, and a 2014 graduate of Leadership Denver.
Auontai “Tay” Anderson is the former Student Body President of Manual High School, having served three consecutive terms. He also served as chair of the Colorado High School Democrats and he is the former State Central Committeeman for HD9. Tay has been passionate about his education since he walked through the doors of Manual High School and dedicates his time to the students of Denver Public Schools. He became the youngest candidate to run for the DPS School Board at the age of 18.
Anderson passionately believes in and participates in social activism. He has taken a stand to support women’s rights, Black rights, Latino rights, LGBTQ+ rights, Native rights, Muslim rights, and disabled persons’ rights. He has participated in numerous public demonstrations as well as conversations and meetings withschool district and state leaders on social activism.
Anderson will soon be attending Metropolitan State University, studying political science.